What is Visible Mending?

My "discovery" of visible mending began in early 2021. But I need to rewind a little before I get into that.

In April 2020 at the height of the pandemic I started making fabric face masks. By the end of the year I had made over 700 masks for the public and donated over 100 masks to the Chicago Children's Advocacy Center. 

In January 2021 the need for fabric masks was winding down and I was quite burnt out from sewing so many masks. 

Before the pandemic I had attended in-person markets and craft shows. Every time I showcased my work people would say, You made that? Or, I don't even know how to sew on a button. With that in mind I started finding ways to teach people how to sew

Like most things in my life I don't have a clear definitive moment of when I first found out about creative visible mending. A class here, a blog post there, an instagram post there. So, what is visible mending? It's a style of mending that showcases your repaired clothes and makes your broken, worn, and/or torn clothes into something more beautiful. 

Visible mending/ darning repair in green, red, yellow on knit fabric
These creative, bright, colorful visible mends drew my eye and I was inspired to learn and then teach these techniques to others. 
I came across the following articles about visible mending that inspired me to keep going: 
Mending has been around for centuries, as a necessity. Visible mending, however, where you can tell that something was patched or repaired, was seen as a sign of poverty.
But the tables have started to turn.
The simplest repair, consisting of applying a patch of fabric with running stitches, has been around for centuries. An example of running stitches can be seen on Japan's Sashiko, Kantha quilts (from Bangladesh, Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, and parts of Assam) and American quilts, below.
Running stitches shown in Japanese sashiko, Indian kantha quilt, and American quilt
Sashiko stitching source, Kantha quilt source, American quilt source
Sashiko stitches means "little stab" in Japanese. This style of mending was first started in rural Japan as a way to extend the life of worn out fabrics. Multiples layers of fabric were stitched together to create warmth for the colder months. There is a long history of Sashiko and I recommend the articles here and here for further reading. 
a blue sashiko-stitched patch and embroidery stitches on muslin cloth
There are numerous shirts, pants, and sweaters I can think of that got tossed or given away in the donation pile. I wish I had known about mending back then. I suppose I did but there are numerous tips and techniques I know now that would have kept those clothes in my closet longer. 
Here's an example of a sweater I mended before and after I knew what "proper" mending was. On the left, I sewed the hole together which distorts the material. This distortion can lead to further strain and wear on the garment. Notice how the knit wale (the vertical rows) bend towards the repair. On the right, a woven darn in a complimentary color yarn is woven over the hole. The wales of the fabric are left as is and a woven darn is woven over the hole to repair it. The repair on the right is a much stronger mend and will last a lot longer than the repair on the left. 
Close up of knitted garment. On the left, knit wales are distorted and sewn together; on the right, a woven darn in complimentary yarn is woven over the hole.
This is just one example of the kind of repairs that can be made with visible mending. Want to learn how to mend your clothes? I have in-person classes in the Chicagoland area. Check them out here